From a recent NYT article on how globalized Japanese people supposedly have trouble finding jobs in Japan:
“Shukatsu” refers to the system in which Japanese companies typically hire the bulk of their workers straight from college and expect them to stay until retirement. Not getting a job upon graduation is seen as a potential career killer.
So competition is fierce. In the last three years, the percentage of new graduates in Japan who found work was the lowest since the government started collecting comparable data in 1996. As of Feb. 1, with two months left in the recruiting season, a fifth of students in their final year at college had yet to find jobs.
“Shukatsu is like Kabuki theater,” said Takayuki Matsumoto, an Osaka-based career consultant. “It’s difficult when you don’t fit the template.”
His advice to returnees: don’t be too assertive or ask too many questions.
Something tells me that young people who study in the US and then spend most of their job hunt trying to land work with Japanese companies might have unrealistic expectations of potential employers. They might not realize that US employers also have similarly kabuki-like expectations of potential recruits. In a lot of ways, the experience of working at your first company might not be that different.
I feel like I must have read this same article like 5 times over the last decade, whether in the form of a primer in Japanese business practices or a feature like this one. The tone of this piece is at odds with my experience working at a US law firm and two Japanese companies so far. Internationally minded people with the right attitude can find a lot of success in Japan. There is such a limited population of truly proficient English speakers that opportunities abound.
I think there can definitely be a mismatch between employer and employee expectations, but overall I think Japanese firms are desperate for talent that’s proficient both with English and dealing with Western culture. It’s mostly sucked up by the foreign firms operating here, so they are hurting for it. That is to say, there may well be many companies that fit the stereotype outlined in the article, but I think there are plenty of others that will welcome the type of talent they describe. Instead of whining to the New York Times, you guys should have spent that time submitting a few more job applications.
Does your experience jibe with mine? Let me know in the comments.
(Thanks to regular reader Diana for sending this in!)